Former Marble Falls Parks and Recreation Commissioner Leta Stephenson-Smith reacts to a crown she found in a gift bag presented to her by Mayor John Packer as Parks and Recreation Director Robert Moss looks on during a ceremony honoring the former commissioner March 15. The event was held before the start of the newly named Leta Stephenson-Smith 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, which was part of the city’s Spring Break activities. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro
STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — Leta Stephenson-Smith had decided to decline an invitation to attend the 3-on-3 basketball tournament March 15, which was part of the city of Marble Falls’ weeklong Spring Break activities.
The former Parks and Recreation commissioner simply couldn’t bear being around the participants — the children she served for 16 years — as an onlooker instead of an event organizer.
When she told her husband, Roy Smith, that she was going to skip the tournament, he told her that wasn’t an option.
“You’re going to be there,” she recalled hearing.
Once she arrived at Marble Falls Middle School, where the tournament was held, Stephenson-Smith understood why.
The Parks and Recreation Department revealed it had named the event the Leta Stephenson-Smith 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament in her honor. The tournament is the longest-running event connected with the Marble Falls’s Spring Break.
In addition, officials presented her with a cake, flowers, and a trophy that reads “In appreciation of your 16-year service as a Parks and Recreation Commission Member and 20-year service as Queen of Spring Break.”
“Her 16 years are the longest a commissioner has ever served,” Parks and Recreation Director Robert Moss said. “Although she is an active participant, we want to recognize Leta for her passionate support in the Spring Break program. It’s always her objective and ours to present these activities for free.”
Before Stephenson-Smith was a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, she worked for the Boys & Girls Club of the Highland Lakes-Marble Falls unit, where she organized Spring Break activities for the facility.
Once she joined the commission in 2002, she urged the city to sponsor Spring Break activities and promised it wouldn’t cost much, if any, money. Stephenson-Smith planned on going door to door to ask businesses to sponsor the event either with coupons, activities, food and beverages, or money. And that’s basically how she and the Parks and Recreation Department did it right up to 2016, when major funding sources shifted to a more formal grant process.
Stephenson-Smith felt so strongly about organizing Spring Break activities that it wasn’t uncommon for her to spend her own money to buy food, prizes, and other necessities.
Stephenson-Smith stepped down as a commissioner earlier this year, citing a new career that requires more of her time, but she shed a few tears as she saw the happy faces of the children as they played basketball, ate a free meal, and had a blast during their school vacation.
“This is what it’s all about – for these babies,” Stephenson-Smith said as she wiped her face. “I’m very proud. This is still a village. It takes a village. That’s what it’s all about.”
She continues to be thankful to the community, the children, parents, and grandparents for participating in the activities, noting the adults simply wanted to ensure kids had something to do that was free in a safe environment.
“We wanted to make sure the kids had some place safe to have some fun to get to be with their friends,” she said. “We wanted to give them something to look forward to every day.”
When asked how she wanted to be remembered, Stephenson-Smith said she wants the commission to continue to organize a week of Spring Break activities and not charge families for participating.
“I’m excited just knowing the legacy is going to keep going,” she said. “Look at all these kids. It’s overwhelming. I don’t want the activities to stop. I want them to keep things going. That’s what I want to be remembered for: These babies have something to do.”